What I Read – January 2019

And in a blink, January was gone! Despite how fast time is flying, I was able to finish up a nice stack of books. Some were a bit disappointing but I found a few new favorites. Satisfying, indeed. So let’s get to it!

From the Children’s Section:

Blended by Sharon Draper – This is a middle grade fiction novel that shares the struggles of eleven year old Isabella. Isabella’s parents are divorced. Since both parents live in the same town, Isabella spends alternate weeks with her mom and dad. Each “transfer” deepens Isabella’s question of where does she really belong? Where is home? How does she fit in these two very different households?

That struggle in itself is challenging enough for a young girl but Isabella is also faced with who she is on a racial level. With a father who is black and a mother who is white, where does Isabella fit? Who is she? Events occur at school and home that make this question cut even deeper.

Overall, this was a good read. I think the topics were handled appropriately for the target audience; definitely middle grade fiction.

Marie Antoinette by Bernadine Kelly – This is a World Landmark Book and a surprisingly interesting biography. This served as a read aloud during our group studies and worked well with my teens down to my seven year old. We were able to learn about Marie’s childhood and bringing all the way to the tragic end of her life.

This biography was full of information and details but managed to be engaging and entertaining as well. It definitely encourages a sympathetic view of Marie Antoinette. Considering the future her mother had planned for her, it was heartbreaking how ill-prepared Marie was for that life. During our reading we had much conversation and discussion on how the outcome could have been different and how much other’s decision directed Maria’s path. I highly recommend this Landmark Biography!

The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas. This book was grabbed off the shelf totally based on the author. We read and loved Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir by Jacques Papier. It was such a beautiful, sweet book that took us all by surprise. How could I resist a book about a pet black hole!??!?!?

Oh my, this book was funny, heartbreaking, and such a great read. I laughed out loud over Chapter 11. The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole is the story of Stella coming to terms with the death of her father. It is set during the 70s so kiddos who enjoy space might enjoy the tidbit of history and space thrown into this book. I had to look up one or two things myself. And! I am totally prepared if a black hole wanders into my yard. I know exactly what it needs to be happy and how to give it a hug without falling in. This is a must read!

 

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster (Jonathon Auxier) – Mr. Auxier is a favorite author in our home. When I heard he had a new children’s novel out, I requested Sweep from our library immediately. We were not disappointed! Sweep takes up to Victorian London into the world of children and chimney sweeps. Life is harsh, dirty, and unforgiving. Young Nan has faced it all and keeps pushing forward. Then she faces sure death and is saved. Saved by Charlie…a monster. Or is he? And just what exactly do you do with a monster when you are suppose to be dead?

This is a beautiful, bittersweet story of friendship, faith, and hope. It gives us a glimpse into a harsh time in history. We learn to keep our brooms up! and to save ourselves by saving others. I read this aloud and my children loves Nan, Charlie, Toby and even Prospero. I’m still torn on Prospero. We highly recommend Sweep! If you haven’t read Auxier other books, I highly recommend Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, and The Night Gardener.

From the Adult Section:

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Twelfth Night is the story of tangled relationships, shipwrecks, and mistaken identities. It is absolutely hilarious and delightful. I can not recommend enough reading Shakespeare aloud in a group. It has to be one of my favorite Shakespeare plays so far. Definitely recommend!

On Magnolia Lane by Densie Hunter. This is the newest release from Christian Fiction author Denise Hunter. This story of a pastor (Jack) falling in love with a parishioner (Daisy) sound interesting and intriguing. Then it fell a bit flat for me. I’m not sure if there were too many smaller plot lines going on or if the character development just wasn’t deep enough? In any case, this one did not live up to my expectations and I was disappointed.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. As a huge fan of World War II books, non-fiction and fiction, I was eager to dive into Scarlet Sky. A story based on a real life of Pino Lella in Italy during the German Occupation. Although this story was based on true life and events, it was fictionalized due to lack of documentation and accuracy of conversations, etc.

Sadly, not too far into the book and I was struggling to embrace Pino, Italy, and all that was happening. The writing was stilted and choppy. Sometimes it read as if Sullivan was writing a fiction novel and then it shifted to a more fact based paper or outline. Normally, at this point I would put a book aside and move on to a new selection. However, I really wanted to love this story so I kept pushing through. In hindsight I should have just shut the book and let it go. At times it bordered at times on unrealistic and some of the events and actions Pino took seemed unbelievable. If you have read Scarlet Sky, I would love to hear your thoughts? I really struggled with this!

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos. Ah, this was such a great read, y’all. Before you read this book, you need to read Love Walked In and Belong to Me. Then grab I’ll Be Your Blue Sky. I am not going to give away any of the story line. Truly. I loved these characters so much. I loved their stories. I loved the picture it paints of family and friendship and dealing with the hard and ugly parts of life. I highly recommend. Find a cozy spot, a yummy snack, and settle in! Now. Go!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. This book. I read it on a whim. I had seen it mentioned online a few times and so I thought, “why not?” I am fairly confident that this book will by in my Top Ten for the year. I absolutely loved this book. Towles created a beautiful story set with the backdrop of Russian history. A gentleman who instead of facing death after the Revolution in Russia is exiled to a hotel. He must live out his life in a small servant room and never to leave the walls of the hotel. Decades pass by as The Count creates a community inside this hotel as he watches the changes of his beloved Russia.

This is a beautiful story of life and friendship and circumstance. The writing and language is beautiful and lovely. I enjoyed just reading how Towles writes as much as the story he wove together. Not only did I fall in love with his characters but I want to learn more of Russia and her history. After I was done, two of my teens (15 and 17) read A Gentleman and my husband listened to it on audio. They all loved it as well.( I want to note that I can’t recall any vulgar language. There are two incidents where the Count spends time with a woman in an intimate setting. There is a description of her lowering her dress to the floor and later they are in bed talking. It is not graphic or detailed and only a paragraph or two each time. I wanted to be upfront my letting my teens read it might encourage others to do the same.)

If you read only one book from this post, make it A Gentleman in Moscow. This is one I would love to own and would re-read. Highly recommend.

I think that covers my January reading. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention anything about my Back to the Classic challenge. Ahem. It is moving at a bit of a slow pace. I will update where I am at on that in my next post.

**This post contains affiliate links. These links in no way change your shopping/browsing experience. I may earn a small percentage if a purchase is made via my links. That’s its. Thanks for stopping by!

From Heiress to Housekeeper

Take a moment to travel back in time. Imagine a lovely heiress who has reached the age where one should seek marital bliss. Ah, let us not be hasty. Of course there is a parental figure aiming for more profit and status than bliss. Where can that be found? With the older, questionable duke or lord naturally. Do not worry, my friend. Our lovely heiress has a bit of gumption and she will not be forced! With a bit of help from a friend, our daring heiress goes into hiding in the last place anyone could possible imagine her. Who would look for the pampered young lady in the country side washing laundry and chasing chickens?
Filghts-of-Fancy-FB-Banner
You can stand in front of a shelf at the bookstore or library, browsing the Christian Fiction section, and get a bit cross-eyed at all the similar plot lines and characters. As I settled in to read Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano, I wondered if she would have a new spin on the rich young lady who hides away to avoid marriage.

About the Book:

Flights-of-Fancy-194x300Miss Isadora Delafield may be an heiress, but her life is far from carefree. When her mother begins pressuring her to marry an elderly and uncouth duke, she escapes from the high society world she’s always known and finds herself to be an unlikely candidate for a housekeeper position in rural Pennsylvania.

Mr. Ian MacKenzie is known for his savvy business sense and has built his reputation and fortune completely on his own merits. But when his adopted parents are in need of a new housekeeper and Isadora is thrown into his path, he’s unexpectedly charmed by her unconventional manner.

Neither Isadora nor Ian expected to find the other so intriguing, but when mysterious incidents on the farm and the truth of Isadora’s secret threaten those they love, they’ll have to set aside everything they thought they wanted for a chance at happy-ever-after.

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction;Gilded Age

Release Date: January 1, 2019

Publisher: Bethany House

My Thoughts on Flights of Fancy:

Isadora is an American heiress who has lived a very pampered life. When faced with a possible marriage to an older, questionable man, Isadora decides to run away to the countryside and work as a housekeeper. After disheartening attempts in finding a placement, details fall into place that have her serving as housekeeper for Ian MacKenzie’s adopted parents.

It does not take long for Izzy’s shortcomings as a housekeeper are made known. How could a pampered heiress know how to wash laundry or well, boil water? Toss in a few orphans, a cow that wants to be indoors and chicken or two, well there might be a few laughs!

But wait! Ian has worked his way from poverty to successful business man. He doesn’t have time to be attracted to this odd housekeeper. He needs to marry someone from New York high society so he will be fully accepted by those gentlemen he works with. He has the money but needs the name. Ah, the plot thickens!

I truly hate when reviewers spoil the plot. Truly. No worries of a plot reveal here. What you really want to know is if this book is worth being placed on your TBR pile, am I right? Let’s see if I can help.

I gave Flights of Fancy three out of five stars. While some may view that as a low or ho-hum rating, please know it is not. A three star rating means that I enjoyed this book but I would not likely read it again. I found it a bit slow in the beginning and had to push myself to keep reading. It did pick up about a fourth of the way in. I do enjoy Turano’s humor and dialogue in her books; they always make me smile.

I appreciate that Turano did not make Isadora’s character shocked and astonished at every aspect of housekeeping. While she has been pampered and spoiled, it had just been the life that Isadora knew.  She had never been faced with any other option. How she lived was what was expected of an heiress. When Izzie was faced with the duties of a housekeeper and taking care of oneself, she jumped in wholeheartedly.

The plot was a bit predictable. There was a certain point in the plot that I was expecting and was a bit surprised at how quickly it was resolved. In comparison to other books by Turano, it seemed the interactions between Izzy and Ian were lacking. It did offer humorous situations and the beauty of family (however they come together).

If you enjoy lighthearted, funny reads with a historic backdrop, then definitely add Flights of Fancy to your TBR pile. And if you haven’t read anything by Turano before, you might want to grab a few. She is always entertaining.

About the Author

Jen TuranoNamed One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publisher Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. When she’s not writing, she spends her time outside of Denver, CO.

 

Q & A With Jen Turano

 

“Flights of Fancy” is the first book in the American Heiress Series. What inspired you to write this series?

The inspiration for this entire series started off with a What If? All of my proposals for new series start off that way, and this time it was – What if Consuelo Vanderbilt had balked when her mother insisted she marry the Duke of Marlborough – and then that led to – What if she’d run away until her mother came to her senses? Just like that, an entire series was born – a bit of a different take on American heiresses because in all three books, my heiresses might decide to go a tad…rogue. We start off with Miss Isadora Delafield – who does run off to avoid marriage to a duke, then we get to meet Miss Poppy Garrison, who is an unexpected heiress but who can’t quite seem to get a handle on the expected social decorum of the day, and then the final book revolves around Miss Beatrix Waterbury – who gets banished to Chicago after she annoys her mother one too many times, and once there, well, gets up to a bit of mischief.

 

How do you come up with the names of your characters?

I find most of my names as I research the New York Four-Hundred, although I normally take a first name here, a last name there so I’m not stepping on any toes by writing about an actual historical figure – except for some of the main figures in New York society back then, such as Mr. Ward McAllister – who was the social arbiter of the day, or Mrs. William Astor, who was the queen of that society. What I don’t do is simply make up names, no matter how outrageous they may appear. And, no matter how I may love a certain name, if the character decides it doesn’t suit them, that’s it, it’s out and I’m back to the drawing board.

 

How do you picture your character? Do you use Pinterest, magazines, movies?

Odd as this may seem, I don’t use pictures for my characters. They start off in my mind as a blurry figure, and then, they develop from there – I like to keep my descriptions of them somewhat vague on the pages so that the reader can imagine them exactly the way they’d like them to be.

 

What are some of your favorite resources for historical research?

I’ve been building up a research library over the past few years and now have over 200 books dedicated to the Gilded Age. My favorites are – “A Season of Splendor” by Greg King, “Society as I Have Found It” by Ward McAllister, “The Gilded Age in New York – 1870-1910” by Esther Crain, and “ ‘King Lehr’ and the Gilded Age” by Elizabeth Drexel Lehr.

 

The setting for “Flights of Fancy” is a bit of a departure for you since it’s set in and outside of Pittsburgh. Any reason for that?

My mom was born in Pittsburgh, and unfortunately, her father, a prominent attorney back in the day, died when she was only four. I thought it would be cool to set a story in Pittsburgh, which would then allow me to really dive into some research. And get this – while I was doing that research, I found this obscure journal called “Memoirs of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. In that journal was a bit about my great-grandfather, Fred, his wife, Susie, my grandfather, and his brother and sister, but I’d never heard about this brother, who apparently died quite young. One of the most fabulous research tidbits I’ve uncovered to date.

 

What are you working on now?

I’ve just recently turned in the content edits for the second book in this series, “Diamond in the Rough,” and I’ve also turned in a novella about the Harvey Girls that will be coming out in a novella collection in Fall, 2019. With those out of the way, I’m now starting the third and final book in the American Heiress series, Miss Beatrix Waterbury’s story, but I’m having a bit of a struggle with the hero at the moment – he was supposed to be Edward, but he doesn’t want to be an Edward – I think he wants to be Norman – but, time will tell on that one – don’t hold me to the name – it’ll depend on if he changes his mind or not – pesky characters.

 

You seem to enjoy adding animals in many of your stories. Will we find any animals in “Flights of Fancy?”

Since Miss Isadora Delafield ends up on a farm, I do believe you will find a few animals, such as an adorable cow by the name of Buttercup, a few goats that seem to have a great liking for laundry, and…there might be some chickens.

 

Thanks for stopping by today, everyone! Always enjoy visiting with all of you – in fact, that’s the best part of my job!

All the best,

~ Jen ~

Blog Stops

The Avid Reader, January 10

Among the Reads, January 10

Through the Fire, January 10

To Everything A Season, January 10

Reflections From My Bookshelves, January 11

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, January 11

Blogging With Carol, January 11

Southern Gal loves to Read, January 11

Back Porch Reads, January 12

KarenSueHadley, January 12

Godly Book Reviews, January 12

Daysong Refections, January 12

Livin Lit, January 13

The Christian Fiction Girl, January 13

The Becca Files, January 13

Texas Book-aholic, January 13

Rebekah’s Quill, January 14

Blossoms and Blessings, January 14

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, January 14

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 14

All-of-a-kind Mom, January 15

Just the Write Escape, January 15

Stories By Gina, January 15

God’s Little Bookworm, January 16

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, January 16

Splashes of Joy, January 16

Janices book reviews, January 16

Happily Managing A Household of Boys, January 17

Mary Hake, January 17

Maureen’s Musings, January 17

Bibliophile Reviews, January 17

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, January 18

Baker Kella, January 18

Simple Harvest Reads, January 18 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 19

Captive Dreams Window, January 19

Robin is Bookish, January 19

Carpe Diem, January 19

Have A Wonderful Day, January 20

Life with the Tribe, January 20

Inklings and Notions, January 20

Rachel’s Back Talk, January 21

Inspiration Clothesline, January 21

amandainpa, January 21

A Baker’s Perspective, January 21

Locks, Hooks and Books, January 22

Pause for Tales, January 22

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, January 22

Raining Butterfly Kisses, January 23

Live Love Read, January 23

A Rup Life, January 23

Bigreadersite, January 23

 

GIVEAWAY!!!!

 a8597c23-4861-43f5-a11e-1b202095e839

To celebrate her tour, Jen is giving away a grand prize of a trunk filled with all of Jen’s full-length novels released to date!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d8d1/flights-of-fancy-celebration-tour-giveaway

 

**Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for the purpose of review. All opinions and thoughts stated are my own. Affiliate links may be used. They in no way affect your shopping/browsing experience.

Back to the Classics 2019

Last year I had the lovely intention of working through a book challenge. Interesting note is that I do not enjoy being boxed in by a challenge. What I read is highly influenced by mood and chaos level. I fully intended to jump into the new year with no reading challenges, no scheduled reading lists. Naturally, I do have a short list of books that I plan to read but no strict expectations!

Of course, I wavered. A friend, Sodbuster Living,  mentioned the Back to the Classics 2019 challenge and I was intrigued. I do read classic books and enjoy them. However, there are some books and authors that I have not been willing to tackle (Hello, Dickens!). So with a simple challenge and a friend, I’m jumping in.

Here is the Back to the Classics 2019 Book Selections covering twelve categories:

1 – 19th Century Classic – A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  My eldest daughter loves Dickens. Another daughter loved A Tale of Two Cities. This is the year I appreciate Dickens.

2 – 20th Century Classic (published between 1900-1969) – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. This has been on my TBR list forever. Definitely time to check it off the list.

3 – Classic by a Woman AuthorSense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I am currently reading through her novels aloud with my children. Our current selection is Pride and Prejudice and we are close to completion. While we only read Austen on Wednesdays, I should be able to complete Sense and Sensibility for this challenge.

4 – Classic in TranslationThe Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. The book synopsis sounds intriguing. So why not?

5 – Classic Comic Novel – The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. My daughters have enjoyed his books for a few years. This was an easy selection to make! Since I gave my daughter a copy of this title, she will let me borrow it, right?

6 – Classic Tragic NovelWuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classic novel. Will I enjoy this Bronte as much?

7 – Very Long ClassicThe Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas or Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca WestI’m torn between these two. I may read a chapter or two from each and see which one captures me first. I could not read both, could I?

8 – Classic NovellaDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Have I read this before? I have no recollection whatsoever. We shall remedy that this year!

9 – Classic from the AmericasThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. How can I not read one of my son’s favorite books?

10 – Classics from Africa, Asia, and Oceania (includes Australia)The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. This was actually on my list to read last year but failed to make it a priority.

11 – Classic from the Place You LivedThe Fair Lady of Halifax by Ronleigh de Conval. I’m not sure why but I had a bit of difficulty finding a book set in my area. If this doesn’t prove to be engaging, I may make a switch to a regional selection.

12 – Classic PlayAs You Like It or The Winter’s Tale by Shakespeare. Perhaps both? I read Shakespeare with my children (a most delightful way to tackle Shakespeare), so depending on our speed, I may get two in! (Have to finish Twelfth Night first.)

Now let the reading begin!

 

 

 

**Please note that affiliate links are used in this post. This simply means that I earn a small percentage if any purchases are made using my links. Your shopping experience is in no way altered.